CHAMPAIGN — Jeana Block gathered her Villa Grove softball team outside the Blue Devils' first-base dugout.
The top of the fifth inning had just ended during Wednesday's Class 1A St. Thomas More Sectional semifinal game between Villa Grove and Fisher, with the visiting Bunnies holding a precarious one-run lead.
But Villa Grove had just escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam by holding Fisher scoreless. Block's message?
"Now was our time," Block said. "We needed to take advantage and score some runs."
Maris Eversole's two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the fifth was the difference, lifting the Blue Devils past the Bunnies 3-2 and into Saturday's 10 a.m. sectional title game against Salt Fork.
"I was just thinking I had to do something for my team to win the game," said Eversole, Villa Grove's junior catcher. "I was trying to be relaxed."
Her poise showed through when she lofted Fisher senior Sydney Eichelberger's first pitch into the outfield.
It fell in between Fisher left fielder Ashlyn Carpenter and Fisher center fielder Riley Parks, allowing Molly Mixell and Vanessa Wright to both score, giving Villa Grove a 3-2 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"I didn't see it fall down because I was rounding first," Eversole said, "but I heard my teammates cheering. That was really nice."
The Blue Devils (23-12) also relied on stout defense late and clutch pitching from Jordyn Ray to get by the Bunnies (20-11). Fisher loaded the bases twice, but couldn't push across a run in either instance, and ended up stranding 11 runners.
"I feel terrible for the girls," Fisher coach Ken Ingold said. "The key was we left too many runners on base. We had a lot of chances where if we just had one big hit, we could have almost broken the game open. Ray settled down and started hitting her spots. I felt like Villa Grove beat us, and we didn't lose the game."
Ray allowed a two-run home run to Fisher sophomore catcher Leah McCoy in the top of the first inning, but that was the extent of the damage inflicted on her by the Bunnies, who received two hits apiece from Sidney Hood, Taylor May and Lauren Sommer.
Fisher managed eight hits against Ray, but any time the junior left-hander needed to make a quality pitch, she did.
"I just had to take a deep breath and take it one pitch at a time," Ray said. "My defense always has my back, too."
Like when sophomore center fielder Kyleigh Block sprinted to her left, stuck her glove out and made a running one-handed grab to haul in a line drive by Sommer for the first out in the seventh. And when sophomore second baseman Madie Burwell made an over-the-shoulder catch while falling to the ground for the second out in the seventh.
"I heard people say, 'Wow, those are great catches," Jeana Block said. "But those are routine. They make those catches because that's what they're used to doing."
Now, Villa Grove will try to add to its impressive season with a potential historic moment on Saturday mornning. The Blue Devils have never won a sectional championship, but they'll get the chance to do so against Salt Fork (23-6), a team Villa Grove defeated 11-1 on April 23.
"We're super excited," Eversole said. "We knew we were going to get here."